Military Drill began with colonial era militia, drilling, as best they
could under English drill tactics, which was based on the Prussian
model. It was in the spring of 1778 that Baron Friedrich von
Steuben instituted a new drill, based on the Prussian model, and gave
coherent instruction to the Continental Army.
Baron von Steuben's manual, the Regulations
were adopted as the official drill manual of the United States Army in
March, 1779. They remained in effect until until 1812.
However, the manuals which were to supplant van Steubens work
were not freely available, and, for the most part, von Steuben's
remained the primary drill manual for most regular and militia units
through the War of 1812.
General Winfield Scott, however, was
in the most modern French Tactics, used by Bonaparte to great effect.
When he took command of the northern troops in the War of
he had great success with these tactics in the Niagara Campaign.
Noting this success, he was appointed as head of a board to
a new drill tactics, based on the French model, which was released in
1815, and revised in 1825.
The 1825 revision was considered too
militia use, and so General Scott was again appointed to a board to
create a manual for militia and volunteers, which resulted in the Abstract
of Infantry Tactics, adopted for volunteers and militia in
1826, our best look into the military drill of the early 19th century.
Generally, this drill was very
French drill was extensively revised in 1827, and, once
General Scott was made head of a board to revise US drill tactics.
The result was his extensive Infantry
which were adopted in in 1835. This manual remained in effect
until 1855, and remained in use by many militia units after that time.
It was the manual in use during the period of the War with
By the 1850's, arms development was clearly catching up with Scott's
manual. Major (Brevet Lt. Col.) William Hardee was named to
a board to develop a new system, once again based on the newer French
model. These Rifle
and Light Infantry Tactics
adopted in 1855, as the standard US drill manual.
Hardee's assumed that the two band rifle would become the standard long
arm of the army, and his Manual of Arms reflected this.
the three band rifle became the standard weapon. Hardee
his manual to reflect this, but, by the time it was ready, secession
had already begun.
Hardee's revised Rifle
and Infantry Tactics
was published in 1861 in
Mobile, and by 1862 had become the standard manual for most Confederate
The US Army flirted with Casey's manual, but issued a US Infantry
Tactics in 1863, which was simply the 1855 Hardee's, without naming the
now Confederate General.
In 1866, General Emory Upton prepared a new Infantry Tactics.
Upton had, with great success, commanded in all three
the late war, and used this experience to his advantage. His
drill had elements of artillery foot drill and cavalry drill, and was
the first US manual that was not based largely on foreign drill. It was
adopted in August 1967. To learn more see my comparison
Upton revised his manual in 1873, largely cleaning up the language of
the original manual. Upon his death in 1881, Upton had nearly
finished a new revision. This work was finished by General Alexander,
and formed the basis for the close order drill of the 1891 Infantry
Drill Regulations, which was the drill standard for the Spanish War.
See my comparison
for more information on this drill manual.
The next drill manual adopted for the US Army was in 1911. As
site is devoted to 19th century drill manuals, that goes beyond our
Much of the detail for this short article comes from a longer,
unpublished article by Dr. Noxon Toomey. Look
6th Regiment, 1st Division, ANV
more complete information on 19th Century
Military Drill, visit the main page.
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